Steam's content policy is both arrogant and cowardly

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The Wolf King

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors
Super Mod
Forum Mod
Sep 11, 2013
Yesterday, in response to a couple of recent controversies, Valve announced that it would abandon its (few, vestigial) efforts to curate the content of games on its ubiquitous PC gaming platform, Steam. "We've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store," Valve's Erik Johnson said in a blog post, "except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling."

The company's argument was constructed to appear principled: there is no such thing as consensus on what is offensive, Johnson argued, even within Valve itself; it is not Valve's place to be a moral arbiter or to decide what is permissible; players and game creators should enjoy the right to freedom of speech. But the post also betrayed a confusion born of profound arrogance about where a society's rules end and the responsibilities of members of that society - especially influential members such as Valve - begin. And worse, it showed a cowardly unwillingness to tackle the tough questions that any company in Valve's enormously powerful and lucrative position must face.
In its 15 years of operating Steam, Valve has progressively openend up the platform, starting by actively curating content for quality and suitability, then devolving those roles to the community through Greenlight, and finally throwing the doors open with Steam Direct. Inevitably, the volume of games skyrocketed and the quality nosedived. Valve's efforts to control the ensuing chaos have been half-hearted and inconsistent, as evidenced by the contrast in two recent stories: Steam warned the developers of several anime visual novels that their content was pornographic, although they weren't as explicit as some other games to be found on the platform; days later, it was slow to react to the appearance of a school-shooting game called Active Shooter. Eventually, the warnings were retracted and Active Shooter was removed from the store on a technicality, but Valve had finally been spurred into some soul-searching on the topic - soul-searching that seems to have led to a depressingly predictable retreat

There are important principles to be debated and defended here. Of course video game creators should be free to express themselves within the bounds of the law, and most people reading this will count themselves lucky to live in a society where such laws are liberal. Maybe those visual novels were misidentified as pornographic, but then again, if pornography is considered permissible then of course video game pornography should be, too. Active Shooter is a disgustingly callous game that disrespects the victims of these terrible events, but that is not to say that games about school shootings should be banned, because it is entirely possible that somebody will one day use video games to explore the topic in as nuanced and thought-provoking a way as, for example, Gus Van Sant's chilling and brilliant film Elephant.

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Certified Classic
Super Mod
Sep 11, 2013
I find that Valve more times than not is reactive instead of proactive, and always working on Valve time. IMO if any of the other digital store fronts operated the Valve does, they would have gone belly up a while ago. But because it Valve and Stream, its tolerated.
Sep 11, 2013
I say open the floodgates. I'm a f***ing adult and my choices of product shouldn't be limited because some parent can't keep tabs on their brats. Parents will allow their children to use PCs and laptops as if it's a gameboy and be surprised when that PC is filled with viruses and content they don't approve of. My cousin wants to play on my PC, but I keep parental locks on it because he got a virus on his dads computer. I have to see and approve everything he does.


What happened to the American Dream? It came true.
Forum Mod
Supporting Member
Sep 12, 2013
The entire concept of these companies policing mountains of content so that you never see something "offensive" is beyond flawed.

You can't have a free society but also one where everyone is happy and never offended. It all starts harmless enough. Let's just censor the racists and worst of the worst. But then someone brings up something else, then something else, then something else. Suddenly you get a game like MW2 with its terror scene banned.

First off, the simple logistics of policing all this content on a day to day basis is massive. There aren't enough hours in the day to sit around and discuss whether this game is "good" or "offensive" or whatever else.

Even if some collective of something could go through everything online ever, who decides what's offensive? I'm the only one who can ultimately make that decision.

Put parental controls on or whatever. Flag anything that is questionable 18+ and keep it away from kids. Otherwise, give me a "never see this again" button and let me make my own decisions. No censorship.